Kehlani’s second album It Was Good Until It Wasn’t, much like her 2017 debut SweetSexySavage, generally eschews pop crossovers in favour of mellow ditties about the ups and downs of romance. The production is moody and contemporary (including the very contemporary penchant for millennial nostalgia), while the songwriting is confessional and soulful in nature.
Can I is an effective collaboration with Tory Lanez, including an earworm verse that’s hookier than the hook, while Bad News’ subterranean bass underscores pleas to abandon a destructive lifestyle (“Take a little time from the wild out, you could slow the time down with me, babe / with me, babe”).
Change Your Life, featuring Jhene Aiko, is a real highlight, tapping into 00s R&B with infectious chords and a bassy mid-tempo beat – think Let Me Hold You by Bow Wow – as is Serial Lover’s guitar-led groove and lyrics about promiscuity.
The filler is blandly inoffensive, coasting on the production’s aesthetic appeal, although the James Blake line “me, the juice to your squeeze” momentarily threatens to disrupt the vibe. Hate The Club dwells on the experience of hoping you run into a crush, noodly saxophone lines and syrupy harmonies drizzled over unremarkable melodies. Open (Passionate) is a song of two halves, the first a lush soundscape and irresistibly catchy tune, the second a forgettable piece of modern-day muzak.
Lexii’s Outro is a powerful way to close the record: a verse from rapper Lexii Alijai, who passed away at the beginning of 2020, adorned with watery guitar. She and Kehlani were very close, and in a world of posthumous cash grabs this tribute feels refreshingly genuine.
As the last plucked notes ring out into the ether, we are left with a record that doesn’t always astound but has a fair few enjoyable moments, and some very effective vocal performances.